Judge: Beetge ‘crucial’

2010-10-15 00:00

THE testimony of alleged South Coast drug mule Tessa Beetge could provide crucial answers in the trial of Sheryl Cwele (49) and Nigerian Frank Nabolisa (41), who are charged with trafficking in cocaine, and the judge has urged the state to consider ways of getting her evidence before court.

High court Judge Piet Koen suggested one way might be via a video link between the Brazilian jail, where Beetge is serving an eight-year sentence, or possibly on commission.

He urged state advocate Ian Cooke and the defence to give thought to the matter.

“It seems to be more and more, with two versions being advanced, that Tessa Beetge’s evidence might be crucial for a proper verdict,” he said.

Cooke earlier abandoned his intention to attempt to admit a written statement from Beetge, which means she cannot be cross-examined.

He said he has tried to arrange for Beetge to be brought to South Africa to testify in person, but there are too many difficulties, including fears by Brazil that she may refuse to return.

The state alleges that Beetge, as well as state witness Charmaine Moss, were victims of a conspiracy by Cwele and Nabolisa to smuggle drugs internationally.

Beetge’s mother, Marie Swanepoel, said on reading SMS messages and e-mails between her daughter and Cwele one could “put two and two together”. She said it is obvious Cwele knew her daughter was in Peru and not in London.

It was suggested to Swanepoel by advocate Mvuseni Ngubane on behalf of Cwele that Cwele and Beetge hatched a plan to deceive her into thinking Beetge was going to work in London.

In one of the e-mails — which were yesterday admitted into evidence — a message from Cwele gives Beetge details of her flight due to depart from Lima Airport to “Sao Palo” on June 5, 2008.

Beetge was arrested with nine or 10 kg of cocaine in her luggage at Sao Paulo airport on June 13, 2008.

Investigating officer Lieutenant-Colonel Izak Ludick told the court the street value of cocaine is between R200 and R500 per gram depending on the purity. The value of the cocaine in Beetge’s possession was between R2 million and R5 million.

Beetge’s ex-boyfriend of three years, Hendrik Claasen, testified yesterday that the day Beetge left for overseas he was with her in Cwele’s office and Cwele told Beetge she would be paid £1 000 (R10 900) per week for the two weeks she was to be in London.

Claasen said Cwele also asked if he was interested in a job overseas, but he refused.

He said he accompanied Beetge to Cwele’s house where Cwele gave Beetge a “good luck” coat for London, along with R500 cash.

Cwele’s advocate suggested to Claasen this was a “concocted story” and that Cwele only met him at Beetge’s request to reassure him, because Claasen was jealous and worried she was going overseas with another man. Claasen denied this.

Ngubane said it was of concern Claasen’s name was not on the list of state witnesses and the defence only realised on Wednesay that he was to testify. He suggested his evidence was “cooked”.

THE court was yesterday handed a faxed copy of a detailed medical report indicating that key witness Charmaine Moss is unfit to testify before October 29, and stating that she is suffering from hypertension, anxiety disorder, panic attacks and insomnia.

The case will resume on Monday when officials from Brazil are due to testify about Beetge’s arrest and the cocaine found in her possession.

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